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Keeping a positive outlook during the pandemic

A woman speaking on a virtual call with her loved one.

You're wearing a face mask. You're staying 6 feet away from others when out in public. And you're cleaning frequently-touched surfaces like kitchen countertops and doorknobs daily.

In other words, you're taking care of your physical health. But what are you doing for your mental outlook during the coronavirus pandemic? Where are you finding joy in your life?

It's not a frivolous question. Science tells us that our emotional health can have a big impact on how we feel physically. It's called the mind-body connection. According to the American Heart Association, people who are happier tend to have better heart health. They manage stress better. And being more positive may contribute to a longer lifespan.

So how can you build positivity in your life during these difficult times? Here are a few ideas.

Stay connected with friends and family. Whether it's by telephone, social media or online video chat, regular check-ins with loved ones can spread joy in both directions. Don't let too much time go by without connecting to someone important in your life.

Reframe your situation. Don't think of yourself as being a prisoner in your own house. Instead, try looking at this as an opportunity to focus on yourself and your home. Is there a room in your house you'd like to rearrange? Do you have a pile of papers waiting to be organized? Try to do one productive thing a day. It'll make you feel better.

Stay as close to your normal routine as possible. Wake up and go to bed at around the same time. Eat regular meals. Practice good hygiene and change into clean clothes, even if you're not working or working from home. Sticking to your normal routine will make it easier to resume normal life when this is over.

Keep your house neat and tidy. Uncertainty is just outside your front door. Keep your side of the door organized, predictable and clean. A cluttered home can lead to a cluttered mind.

Limit how much news you watch and read. Reading or listening to news about the pandemic can stress you out. Stay informed, but don't obsess over endless media coverage.

Focus on the small things that bring happiness each day. At the end of the day, think about all the small moments that gave you pleasure. What did you accomplish? What were you grateful for?

You might want to write your answers down in a journal so you can revisit them when you're feeling down.

Spend some time in nature. Take a stroll through a park. Have a seat near a pond and watch the ducks paddle around. Studies have shown that spending time in nature settings can:

  • Improve attention.
  • Lower stress levels.
  • Improve your mood.

Just be sure to practice social distancing while you're outdoors and wear a face mask if you're around others.

Spread joy in your neighborhood. Did you hear about the teddy bear hunts that took place in communities across the country? They were inspired by a children's book, We're Going on a Bear Hunt. People were placing stuffed bears—and other animals—in their front windows to create a scavenger hunt activity for children who were out for a walk with their parents. You could do the same, or you could draw hopscotch squares with chalk on your sidewalk for families to play on as they stroll by. Taking the time to brighten someone else's day can brighten your own.

Learn more about COVID-19 by visiting our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 9/9/2020

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